A tale of two Cassiars — Part Two

A powerline, bears, and a lake

We left our idyllic wilderness valley early Saturday morning to continue our trek down the Cassiar

Goodbye to the most beautiful RV park in the world

After a few miles and a gas stop in Isbuk, we found ourselves in the middle of a major construction project–the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), an enormous power line extension running from the Stewart/Hyder cutoff to the Isbuk area. Apparently the Stikine region near the Cassiar is slated for several mining and hydro projects, including a large open-pit gold and copper mine and the NTL will supply power needed for development. It is also touted as a supposedly “green” project because the 600 or so residents of Isbuk will no longer need to power the town with diesel generators, thus cutting carbon emissions. Given the carbon emissions needed to build the line itself, I’m thinking that reasoning doesn’t pass the red-faced test.

South of Isbuk

South of Isbuk–the towers are going up, but no lines yet

Assembling the towers

Assembling the towers

I’m not against power lines, but this one runs through one of the most beautiful wild regions imaginable, and they could not have designed it to be more obtrusive and in-your-face if they had tried. It runs right along the road–criss-crossing it several times–a huge swath of clear cut with enormous steel towers. Let’s just say you can’t help but notice it.

Powerline running for miles and miles beside the road

Farther south, the lines have been strung

In contrast, the portion of the line built earlier, which runs to Stewart, is barely noticeable, and only crosses the road in one area.  In any case, the northern part of the Cassiar reminded us of the old Alaska Highway–winding, narrow, remote, and wild. The second part reminded us of Alaska pipeline construction days–lots of trucks, construction camps, activity, and litter. It was a real contrast.

Despite the power line, the area is still gorgeous, with park-like stretches dotted with dandelions and cow-parsley on the road edge. And did I mention bears? They were grazing on the newly-emerging plants all along the road and it became almost routine to see them. “Oh look, there’s another bear–or is it a stump–no it’s a bear.” We saw eight that day, including a good-sized brown bear in the middle of the road.

You can just see the road in the lower left, way downhill

You can just see the road in the lower left, way downhill

IMG_1592We stopped for the night at an absolutely beautiful Provincial Park, Lake Meziadin, where we found a spot right on the water. Although it was supposed to be raining, the weather was sunny and in the 70’s, so we decided to stay for two days. It was a long weekend in Canada, Victoria Day, and lots of families were camping. Kids riding bikes, people fishing, the smell of campfires and breakfast bacon–it was another amazing camping spot for us where we worked hard at relaxing.

Fishing in the morning stillness--the lake got windy in the afternoon

Fishing in the morning stillness–the lake got windy in the afternoon

Our campsite

Our campsite

Zoe thought that she had died and gone to doggy paradise. Walks, great new smells, her first opportunity to swim on this trip, and the park host gave her biscuits.

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A tale of two Cassiars

Part one–the upper Cassiar HIghway

It cleared up by Thursday morning (May 15) when we left Takhini Hot Springs. After a brief stop in Whitehorse, we headed to Watson Lake. We stayed at a utilitarian (not lovely–but relatively clean) campground in the middle of town to do laundry, fill tanks, and get provisions for our next leg.

We took Zoe on an after-dinner walk to the Watson Lake sign forest down the street. On previous trips, we have always driven by it with just a glance, thinking it was just a touristy gimmick.  But it was worth a closer look.  It dates back to WWII when the Alaska Highway was built and is a maze of thousands and thousands of signs from all over the world. There is a lot of misdemeanor sign-theft represented in that grove of trees.

Sign forest

Sign forest

The next morning we headed down the Cassiar Highway.  We had hesitated on this route because rain was forecast for the area and its road conditions are supposed to be bad in the spring. When the forecast improved, we decided to go for it. I’m so glad we did. What a beautiful drive.

There were some potholes and frost heaves, but nothing compared to the mess near the border. All in all, the road the first day was in good shape. It started out in a flat and open burn area, transitioning to rolling hills and then mountains.

First part of the drive through the burn

First part of the drive through the burn

Once again, we saw lots of wildlife–three bears, including a young brown bear, a deer, and quite a few beautiful caribou. Unfortunately, they were faster than I was with the camera.

The only successful wildlife shot all day

The only successful wildlife shot all day

The highway winds by lakes and rivers,

Vivid glacial green waters

Vivid glacial green waters

all types of mountain peaks,

IMG_1547and has periodic flat stretches.

If you look carefully, you can see two caribou running into the trees on the middle left of the picture

If you look carefully, you can see two caribou running into the trees on the middle left of the picture

We ended the day at the most beautiful RV park in the world. Really.

Zoe approves

Zoe approves

We stayed in the section for large RVs because we were the only people there and the view was extraordinary. But it also has a beautiful wooded area next to a stream with large back-in spots for smaller RVs and tent campers.. The park–Mountain Shadow RV Park–is in Iskut, below Dease Lake, and it’s on 250 or so acres in a stunning valley. It’s gorgeous, immaculately kept, and I highly recommend it.  It was astonishing that no one else was there and we had the whole exquisite valley to ourselves.

We set up our chairs, poured glasses of wine, and sat in the sun (we are still Vitamin D-starved after the winter). It was in the 70’s, the birds were singing like mad, a nice breeze kept the bugs away. Sheer bliss.

Room with a view

Room with a view